One month in Madrid

Madrid Royal Palace

When I first think of Madrid it´s not for the gastronomy, and I think many with me have the same opinion. What first comes up in my head is football and Real Madrid. Art is another thing with museums like Prado and Reina Sofia and ofcourse the magnificant royal palace. My knowledge of Madrid before I came to Spain didn´t reached further than that so I was glad when I should get the opportunity to explore the capital for July.

I came to Madrid after that great congress in Mexico. I have to say that before Mexico I lost a lot of inspiration and energy and all I wanted was to finish and go back home. But if you know me well you know that I never give up before I completed a mission. So I really took Mexico as an opportunity to recover and how I did it. Everything was set up to be a perfect month in Madrid. I had a central apartment of my own with a pool on the roof. Ten minutes to the restaurant and two days off a week to explore the culinary scene of the capital and time to make plans for the final competition in September. It sounds like everything is amazing and perfect – well that´s not the whole truth. Imagine travelling around from region to region, changing places to places in a foreign country. You don´t know many people, you only have two bags to carry all your belongings for a year with a tight budget and your language is not perfect, even if I have to say that I do pretty well after 7 months of practicing. But why see the negative side of life? I think you´ll be so much happier if you always try to see the positive sides of it so that´s why I haven´t told you many bad experiences even if they´re there. But as you can imagine, most of my experiences are happy and great ones – memories for life.

But what do I really learned from my period here? What really have made a huge impression of me is the culture of gastronomy. The produce and the way people enjoy them is what I´m going to take with me as the biggest memory. So locally connected and with a huge importance for the specific region. I have my own favorites – Cured meats, Marcona almonds and pimentón from La Vera. The rich seafood from Galicia, olive oils and vinagre from Jerez are other produce I admire. That is just some of all impressive produce I´ve got the opportunity to learn more about and been in love with. So a clue for the upcoming competition is that´s going to be a dish with some of these produce.

The Puerta de Alcalá a night

Because of my tight budget I stayed away from everything significant with fine dining restaurants here in Madrid and just tried to find the places to try the traditional, priceful food far away from fancy furniture, expensive utensils or perfectly cutted vegetables. I have to say that I´m quite tired of over dosated super hard jellys, spherifications and emulsifying powders that gives the produce an artificial taste. I realized why Ferran closed down elBulli,why we see world famous chefs coming up with casual, priceful restaurants and why nordic cuisine is highlighted today. Natural is the fashion and my favorite restaurant in Madrid is a restaurant just about the best fresh produce, cooked with respect for its quality just to be served the way it want to be served. El Pescador have served me great dinners twice, always with the freshest seafood, with friendly and casual service and in an relaxed environment. Perfectly grilled prawns, tender octopus and best of all – turbot fried on the bone. Food is about time and place – that turbot just at that time in that place was probably the most delicious turbot in the world. Food doesn´t have to be more complicated than that.

My month in Madrid is over and I´m taking my bags and moving on to a region most well known for its wines. Let´s find out if Rioja have anything else to show, but have to say I´m quite happy that I´m going to get the opportunity to visit some winerys and learn more about one of the most popular wines in Sweden. See you in the mountains!

Christofer Johansson
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